Coven Athletic 1 Cannock United 3
Staffordshire County Senior League – Division Two
Being raised in a small village, I spent many of my formative years sheltered from the real World!
No sooner had I turned up for my first day at the semi-borstal that was Mortimer Wilson Comprehensive School, did I start to realise just how lucky, and possibly even how naïve I’d been.
These kids were different, for a start, they seemed to be let out after dark and they understood the basic concepts of survival in a working class town. Arguing, fighting, haranguing the opposite sex, loitering, even minor criminal acts were part and parcel of daily life.
But, they couldn’t recite their twelve times table, and I could, so it gave me comfort that I might just have enough to survive the five year rat-race, and assuming I got out of the other end, I stood half a chance of a life without penal incarceration.
You see, living in a small village was great, you knew everyone, everyone knew you. You could walk everywhere, you could get home nice and easily, before it got dark. You also couldn’t get into trouble, because everyone knew you, and unquestionably your parents WOULD find out everything you’d been up to.
We played football, we rode bikes, we played on our Sinclair ZX Spectrum’s and in the Summer we’d go down the woods and make dens. How Famous Five it all was, ‘Woof’ said Timmy. Lashings of Ginger Beer all round, with cream cakes for dessert!
There are some villages through the passage of time, that actually end up becoming small towns, rather sadly in my view. The price of progress and housing demands has seen the large developer win the battle of wills with the authorities, and green land subsequently turns to homes. I’ve seen this locally with places like South Normanton and Hilton, and what were once small village communities have become almost unrecognisable.
However, I don’t ever recall a town being ‘downgraded’ to a village before, but when I did my research on Coven Athletic, who were new to the Staffordshire County Senior League, I came across something very unusual.
My first discovery was that they played in a place called Brewood, which was located in South Staffordshire, not far from the Shropshire border, effectively to the North West of Wolverhampton.
That rang a bell because I could recall a team playing in the West Midlands Regional League in the Eighties called Brewood, and so it transpires, Coven were going to be playing at the same ground.
But Brewood itself is unusual because it was once a town, but not anymore it transpires. It was reconstituted as a village in the early twentieth century as the population fell due to a migration to the major centres such as Wolverhampton and Stafford. But, soon after its status changed, the village grew again, and now with its population at almost 8,000, the highest it’s ever been, it remains a village.
Having had some very helpful Twitter chatter with Coven on the day of the game, I made my way to the ground and parked up, while having taken the advice as to suitable hostelries, I was soon at home in the ‘village’ centre with pint in hand.
Brewood is a nice place, much bigger than the village I grew up in, but a very welcoming and attractive place all the same. The ground itself sat right on the outskirts of the village and after driving down a short track you find a car park with a dressing room building to the side. Two pitches adorn the complex, with a further cricket field and pavilion in the distance.
It had a lovely rural feel about, and other than the two dugouts, the lack of any football furniture seemed to suit the location. Stands and floodlights might appease the ground graders, but from an aesthetic point of view, it’s not what Brewood needs or indeed wants.
As for the game, well Coven lost 3-1 to neighbours Cannock United, but to be fair, and I did make the comment to them afterwards, they did deserve at least a point, and probably more. Cannock took the lead early in the game but the hosts saw plenty of the ball, and indeed hit the woodwork on at least two occasions.
A second goal followed but then Coven scored with a header to get themselves back into the game. Despite more pressure and more chances, the decisive fourth goal in the game went to Cannock and this deflated Coven who in my opinion deserved more from the encounter.
The result saw Cannock maintain second position in the table, while Coven sit just below the half way mark, with two wins from their five games.
The journey back took just around an hour, down the A5, up the A38, and as always, it gave me a bit of reflection time. I got thinking about the village where I grew up and the fact that I could look out of my bedroom window across the valley, and in the distance on the horizon was that town that came as such a culture shock to me.
The irony now is, if you look out of the very same window, you can’t see the town any more, you can see an estate of new houses that have been erected over the past eighteen months, despite loud protests from local residents.
Village life is evolving everywhere you look, the local shop, the local pub, the post office, are all disappearing as the urban centres draw us ever closer. Villages like Brewood, with clubs like Coven Athletic, the pubs and the café’s, are getting fewer, and that’s a real shame, the price of progress is a heavy one in my opinion.
Town's becoming villages, that's not a trend I expect to see happening readily, Brewood clearly bucked that trend several generations ago. They may well one day have a fight on their hands from stopping it going back the other way.